Infants on Thrones

The Philosophies of Men, Mingled with Humor

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Under the Banner of Heaven

Tom Perry hosts a panel discussion to review and discuss the book Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer. Special guest reviews by: Stephanie, Allen and Jay.

Resources used in this podcast:

  • http://profiles.google.com/brianj.roaming Brian Johnston

    OMGZ!!! This is so excellent. Downloading now.

    I hate this book with a flaming passion. It’s an irrational loathing mixed with unrestrained fury, combined with reliving the most terrible points in my marriage every time someone mentions the book, all mixed into a steaming black cauldron of poison.

    It keeps me warm in those chilly pre-dawn moments when it’s coldest outside, and I need an inner fire to warm my heart of darkness.

    • http://www.facebook.com/dgostlund Glenn Ostlund

      For reals? You are really going to need to explain this. And please keep using such fun, descriptive words. I want to be able to taste your irrational stew of fury and savor each stochastically mercurial ingredient.

      • Randy_Snyder

        To Brian’s defense, he did say it was an “irrational loathing”. Apparently based more in the amygdala than the prefrontal cortex. I have irrational loathing for a lot of things (like Glenn) I can’t cogently defend but at least Brian can admit as much. :-)

      • http://profiles.google.com/brianj.roaming Brian Johnston

        See?
        Randy gets me. :-)

        First, let me clarify my opinion of the book:
        1. Krakauer is a skilled and effective writer.

        2. The material in the book is historically accurate OR it represents valid and plausible opinions about Mormon historical events in areas where there isn’t enough information to know. He did his homework.

        3. Religion has the potential to inspire the worst in some people. The Laffertys are as good an example of that as any.

        4. Mormon religion has some really dysfunctional ideas in it, and some truly scandalous history.

        5. I enjoyed reading the book. It was disturbing to me when I read it. No thinking and caring person, Mormon or not, could be unaffected by the story.

        But I also think I understood what he was trying to do — at least what Krakauer claims was his intention and purpose for writing the book. I got that. He wanted to explore the dark underbelly of religion, and Mormons made a good target for the story he wanted to explore. Sure. I agree intellectually with what he was saying.

        WHY I HATE THIS BOOK:

        Because it has caused me, my Mormon family and friends a lot of damage, heartache and pain. It put a huge wedge in my marriage, and probably contributed to a divorce in my extended family. I can not even bring up the topic of Mormonism or even religion in my own home without hearing a turrets-like
        reactive rant: that the LDS Church is a damaging and dangerous cult, and Joseph Smith was a pedophile and a liar! (which might all be true, but can’t we at least have a civilized discussion about it?)

        This book wasn’t just another stuffy academic work that circulated among pointy-headed Dialogue Magazine-style intellectuals and historians (my favorite people). It was a major best seller read by all kinds of readers – many of whom are NOT sophisticated readers of religious history books.

        Here is the poisonous pattern Krakauer sets up in his book:
        1. The Lafferty’s are fucking crazy, evil, sick bastards.

        2. Here’s something violent and bad in early
        Mormon history.

        3. Is there a possible connection? (of course there is!)

        4. Here is how the seed of fundamentalism remains in the LDS Church.

        5. The Laffertys were LDS … AH HA! YES! We get the connection now, thanks!

        6. … therefore, the LDS religion produces fucking crazy, evil, sick bastards. What else could it produce given all the history and evidence that you just read in this book?

        For readers who DON’T KNOW anything else beyond reading this book, that’s all there is. There’s no nuance. There’s no showing of different perspectives. Krakauer was telling an entertaining and intellectually challenging story of the dark side of religion. It was only focused on that one perspective.

        There actually aren’t any reasonable Mormons, just ones that manage to barely keep their grip on reality enough, for the time being, to not go on a murderous
        rampage based on a prompting from God. All religions have these people, so this was just the example he used…

        A family member who was leaving the church read this book. They wanted me to read it too so they could talk about it with someone in the family. They told me they thought I was chilled out and knowledgeable enough, so it wouldn’t be a problem. That was correct. So I read it. He and I had some great conversations about the book. But…

        My wife got curious, so she wanted to read the book too and be a part of the discussion. That was the end of peace about religion in my home. :-( She did *NOT* see his examination of the dark underbelly of religion as a clever intellectual exercise worthy of spirited conversation over drinks. IT WAS FOR REAL! The LDS Church created the Laffertys, and the LDS Church is an evil and dangerous influence making her miserable. Our whole family had to leave the church immediately! If I didn’t leave the church and HATE it like she does, than it’s a betrayal. I must love the church more than her … hmmmm, maybe I am like the Laffertys? Don’t you see the obvious connection?!!!!!!!!!! Krakauer does. It’s all in the book!

        It’s been almost 5 years of grief, and nearly the cause of the breakup and destruction of my family. THANK YOU JOHN KRAKAUER! You book is so awesome and clever.

        This is why I hate that book and John Krakauer.
        My hatred is not fair. It isn’t even because I am a believer. It’s because I experience the harm and consequences on an almost daily basis because people BELIEVE the surface level of his story.

        They are not reading it the way he claims he intended to write it. Whooops! His mistake right? Well, it’s my loss.

        I hate this book because too many people I have to interact with DON’T get his clever, detached examination or his clever use of Mormonism to examine broad questions of human nature. They only heard: The LDS Church is a bunch of evil, dangerous psychopaths.

        Krakauer put all the evidence into one giant, stinking pile of shit, all in one place, to make it “obvious” to anyone with “integrity” and “honesty.” There’s nothing else about Mormonism really worth considering. His book is the reality of it, the final word.

        • RJ

          While I haven’t experienced any thing like what you are describing in my own personal life, I have to say my opinion of the book, though I haven’t read it, has been colored by the fact the so many of the most lowbrow vitriolic attacks on Mormons I encounter site UBH. I’m pretty sure I have few disagreements with the facts he presents, but I also think Mike Otterson’s criticism of how many people interpret the book is legitimate. It does in fact lead to problems that Krakauer takes no responsiblity for, nor does anything to correct or mitigate.

          • RJ

            *cite*

        • Otterbob

          Brian,
          Take a leap of faith, get over the LDS Church and go have a great life with you wife and kids!

        • FredWAnson

          OK, I see your points Mr. Johnston. However, I’m still not understanding why other Mormons (like C. Jess Groesbeck who I mentioned in my prior post for example) read the book, had direct interaction with the Laffertys and felt that Mr. Krauhauer expressed some legitimate concerns about religious fanaticism in general and LDS fanaticism in particular.

          I thinking than a more reasoned and balanced perspective on this book may be of greater benefit than simply condemning it wholesale as many seem to do.

    • FredWAnson

      While I appreciate and acknowledge your feelings Mr. Johnson could you help us understand the justification for extreme rhetoric like:

      “irrational loathing”
      “unrestrained fury”
      “a steaming black cauldron of poison”

      I read the book twice and didn’t sense of the above other than from perhaps the attitudes and behavior of the religious fanatics reported on in the book. And those attitudes and behaviors have been validated and confirmed by reputable, respecting practicing Mormons like the late, great forensic psychiatrist C. Jess Groesbeck who the LdS Church called in to do an evaluation of the Lafferty brothers and ended up helping the State of Utah prepare their case against the brothers.

      He gave a powerful presentation on this book and his work with the Laffertys at Sunstone (see https://www.sunstonemagazine.com/audio/SL88129.mp3 ) where he said:

      “One of the most dangerous traits and trends of any culture that claims, ‘to have the truth,’ is the tendency to not see it’s blind side and it’s capacity to project it’s own shadow onto others. And then identify with only what is light and good and right from God. And assume that all others that are different belong to the Devil.

      This is, in my estimation, one of the most serious – if not THE most serious problem we face in collective Mormonism today. Our inability to acknowledge or see our own shadowy side.

      How desperately do we need to hear, ‘. . . why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?’ (Matthew 7:3)”
      [37:05 into the presentation]

      “But when no one looks behind the scenes at the collective elements that fomented and set the stage for these kinds of individuals, then painful realities need to be acknowledged in this culture.

      As Richard Howard, Historian for the Reorganized Church said to me, ‘When individuals are isolated and their own religious outlooks are not honored or given at least legitimate discussion, does this not produce the kind of isolation that breeds idiosyncrasy, anger, frustration, alienation and hence aggression toward others?’

      The answer to that question would have to be a painful, ‘Yes!'”
      [36:00 into the presentation]

      So I’m struggling to reconcile your reaction to the book against what so many others have said and suggested as good, positive, productive “take aways”.

      A little help?

  • nielper

    Great discussion! I remember reading this book several years ago and being blown away by it. I’ve read four of Krakauer’s books and you cannot fault him for not doing his homework. His books are all VERY well researched. It’s true that the FLDS church looks a lot more like the originial church than does the mainstream LDS church. Someone should make an “I’m a Mormon” ad featuring Joseph Smith or Brigham Young….
    …..”I have 53 wives, I hate black people, I believe in blood atonement, and I’m a Mormon”…..

  • RJ

    Hey
    Gentlemen,

    I
    thought this podcast was really interesting. Couple things came to mind. First,
    as a companion to this podcast you guys should do a movie review of
    “Brigham City” by Dutcher. It’s a pretty good movie that stands on
    it’s own and deals really nicely with this “blind spot” that you discussed that existing in the Mormon faith, which allows abuse to thrive. One of the themes of the movie centers
    on the verse in the New Testament where Jesus says, “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst
    of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents,
    and harmless as doves”.
    I think this way of looking at faith could be a very productive way for the Church
    to teach it’s members to protect themselves against abuse.

    ….Second,
    Tom, I have something in common with you.
    The seeds of, my faith “crisis” were planted by learning about
    the mountain meadows massacre. As it turns out I’m a direct decedent of a
    couple of the victims of the massacre, which I discovered from my Grandmother
    who lived in Enterprise at the time, which
    is a 10 min drive away from the site. I attended the rededication of the burial
    site, it’s a long somewhat interesting story. I’ve been to the Mountain Meadows
    many times over the years. It didn’t go into immediate faith crisis, but I can definitely
    say it opened the door to a different way of looking at my faith.

    • RJ

      opps sorry about the formatting, I copied and pasted from another program. Guess that screws things up

      • http://bobcaswell.com Bob Caswell

        I really like the movie Brigham City (though it’s been a while since I’ve seen it). Good suggestion, I think it’d make for a good podcast discussion.

  • Otterbob

    Laffertys were a good family growing up. The older boys got into the teachings of Joseph Smith and his school of the prophets. Krakauer’s point was that the unbiased history of the LDS Church includes a unique entitlement. Entitlement to speak for God and to judge for God. Joseph Smith controlled his people’s voting, selling of property, who they could marry and justified lying and violence all in the name God.
    Otterson’s comment that the LDS Church leaders teach based on the gospel of Jesus Christ is wrong. They teach doctrine as defined by Joseph Smith, Brigham Young and early mormon teachings. Lafferty based his action on the same teachings.
    Under the Banner of Heaven is simply the history of the LDS Church without the artificial sweetners. Many of us Mormons grow up with the Church History presented from SLC. When we then see actual history we are shocked and quickly cry foul play.
    As mentioned in this podcast there are too many examples today where the LDS Church teachings create a paradox that promotes this same entitlement to certain priesthood holders.

  • Ben S

    This podcast was excellent. Great job Tom et al. Made me want to pick up the book again. Like some of you and Lyndon Lamborn, I felt a little silly that my non-member friends knew more about the controversial issues of the Mormon faith before I did because they read this book. Keep up the good work!

  • Pingback: Blood Atonement, Capital Crimes and Mormon Murders « Beggar's Bread()

  • FredWAnson

    I absolutely loved this podcast- well done y’all!

    However, there was one voice missing from the presentation that I think would have added much to it had it been heard. I’m referring to the late, great C. Jess Groesbeck (May 7, 1934 – October 26, 2009) who was one of the Forensic Psychiatrists who examined Ron Lafferty after his arrest.

    Dr. Groesbeck presented his findings in a riveting Sunstone Presentation and attempted to draw practical lessons for us all from them including:

    “One of the most dangerous traits and trends of any culture that claims, ‘to have the truth,’ is the tendency to not see it’s blind side and it’s capacity to project it’s own shadow onto others. And then identify with only what is light and good and right from God. And assume that all others that are different belong to the Devil.

    This is, in my estimation, one of the most serious – if not THE most serious problem we face in collective Mormonism today. Our inability to acknowledge or see our own shadowy side.

    How desperately do we need to hear, ‘. . . why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?’ (Matthew 7:3)”
    [37:05 into the presentation]

    “But when no one looks behind the scenes at the collective elements that fomented and set the stage for these kinds of individuals, then painful realities need to be acknowledged in this culture.

    As Richard Howard, Historian for the Reorganized Church said to me, ‘When individuals are isolated and their own religious outlooks are not honored or given at least legitimate discussion, does this not produce the kind of isolation that breeds idiosyncrasy, anger, frustration, alienation and hence aggression toward others?’

    The answer to that question would have to be a painful, ‘Yes!’”
    [36:00 into the presentation]

    Those interested in hearing Dr. Groesbeck’s presentation in it’s entirety will find a link to it here: http://beggarsbread.org/2012/12/10/blood-atonement-capital-crimes-and-mormon-murders/

  • sd

    You know what is all kinds of awesome? Seeing Infants (and Tom) get the nod from a big time podcast like Caustic Soda! Check out their Facebook page and see for yourself! http://www.facebook.com/causticsodapodcast?fref=ts
    Way to go Infants! And yay for Tom!!!

  • Kathryn Teleste

    Finally listened to this episode and it really got me thinking about the parallels between the Lafferty’s story and the one about Nephi killing Laban. Both claimed that the Holy Spirit instructed them to murder. I started to type about it here and it became an essay, so instead I posted it to my blog. Hope it’s okay to link here. If not, feel free to remove the comment. Thanks! https://telestialkingdom.wordpress.com/2014/11/16/the-holy-spirit-vs-morality/

    In any case: Great, thought-provoking episode. Thanks for putting it together, Tom!